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Radiography Student Reflects on COVID-19 Pandemic & Effects on Clinicals

Deciding to go back to college can be an intimidating choice. Layer on a global pandemic, and you either turn right back around and do what you’ve been doing, or you jump in feet first and see where the adventure takes you. The latter is exactly what radiography student Megan Fierstos did.

Megan worked as a licensed insurance agent when she decided it was time to do something different. She had always been fascinated by X-rays, so she enrolled at Aultman College. With two semesters of general education requirements under her belt, she entered the Associate of Applied Science in Radiography (AASR) Program in the fall of 2020—right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the Hospital, Man Standing Face Against the Wall While Medical Technician Looking at Him Before X-Ray Scanning

She was hesitant to start the radiography program with the world in such a different place than when she began at Aultman College. Still she decided to see how things would go. What Megan had expected her first-semester experience was not the reality. “I assumed you would meet everyone in your class and make friends who you can study and hang out with. But because of the pandemic, we can’t do much of that now unless we meet via Zoom.”

Overall, she noticed three significant differences—the classroom setting of online versus in-person, how clinicals are conducted, and the wearing of personal protection equipment (PPE). However, she feels that the experience is trending positively.

During the fall 2020 semester, most of Megan’s classes were online, except for a few in-person lab classes. She said online classes made things a little more difficult. For example, students couldn’t walk up to a model or item the instructor showed them to get a better look. Megan also surmised that students weren’t as quick to ask questions over Zoom compared to being face-to-face in a classroom. To fill in these gaps, radiography instructors provided interactive learning activities and discussions, as well as bones and models when possible.

When other classes began again in person, it was still hard to get to know classmates. Megan explained, “Since we’re all six feet apart, it feels like we’re speaking so much more loudly when we want to talk to someone.”

After the radiography program’s clinical practicum was delayed until the spring semester due to the pandemic, Megan felt a positive shift in learning during the spring semester with more in-person learning. “We’ve done a couple of in-person clinicals, and I can already tell the experience allows so much more learning,” she said. “It’s made a huge difference.”

During clinicals, Megan gains real-world experience performing imaging procedures—instead of pretending on a friend for virtual classes or using lab simulations. Clinicals give her a chance to interact with different types of bodies, so she can learn with a variety of people.

One major issue Megan didn’t expect with the pandemic? Goggles that fog up during classes or when walking across campus. “Aultman College requires everyone to wear masks and goggles. The masks aren’t bad, but when the goggles fog up, and I can’t see what’s written on the board, that’s really a pain.”

Radiography students in Megan’s class will most likely be wearing the PPE through graduation in spring 2022. She’s not sure how the vaccines will impact this, but she’s mentally prepared to wear the face mask and goggles as long as needed.

Post-graduation, Megan hopes to be a practicing radiographer. She chose the field because it’s so versatile. She can work in a variety of clinical settings, such as doctors’ offices, immediate cares, hospitals, mobile companies, pain clinics, and more. Depending on which area she decides to take her career in, she may need additional education, so she plans on going back for at least her bachelor’s degree.

“As long as I can graduate from Aultman College as a practicing radiographer, that’s a good place to start. Then I can go from there,” Megan said. Aultman College is setting her up for success in a very rewarding career.

When looking at different colleges, Megan landed on Aultman College because she was more familiar with Aultman Hospital (she had worked there for several years). The school was closer to home, and she liked the smaller classes. She assumed that instructors would get to know students as individuals. Even through online classes and all the pandemic-related adjustments, Megan has found her assumptions to be true.

For students considering Aultman College, Megan wants them to know that the radiography program is not easy—which is a good thing. She explained that “if you put forth the effort, listen to lectures, and study outside of class, your dedication will show. You’ll have a very rewarding career after graduation.”

Now, with some classes and clinical experience under her belt, Megan said she’s very happy being at Aultman College, even during a pandemic.

Are you ready to start your journey in radiography at Aultman College? Learn about our Associate of Applied Science in Radiography program or request info about Aultman College.